Months ago I received a surprise package from Richard McGary with a challenge and lots of chile peppers. One of the contents of the package was a jar with Richard’s homemade Ancho Chile Rub. This is a spice mix with ancho chile as the main ingredient that I liked a lot. I tried it with salmon and tuna. The ancho chile rub is not just spicy — it has a deep earthy flavor that goes well with both meat and fish. I liked it so much in fact, that I finished the jar that Richard sent pretty quickly. And so I had to make my own.
To make ancho chile rub, you will need dried ancho chiles and a spice grinder (as well as a bunch of other stuff that I already had in my spice cabinet). I liked it so much that I went to the trouble of buying a spice grinder and searching online for a place that would alllow me to buy dried ancho chiles in the Netherlands, not a common ingredient around here. I managed to do both and so I was ready to go.
I only made three changes to Richard’s original recipe. First of all, I used less salt as you can always add more salt later but can’t take it out once it’s in. Second, I used mustard seeds rather than mustard powder as I was going to grind everything anyway. Third, my brand new German hand-cranked spice grinder didn’t succeed in grinding the mixture that I ended up with by following Richard’s recipe. Even though I toasted the ancho chiles, they were still too tough rather than brittle to grind them. And so I roasted the ancho chiles in a low oven and ground everything coarsely in my food processor before doing a fine grind in the spice grinder. That worked like a charm. I’ve already tried my own ancho chile rub on a simple steak and it tasted just like Richard’s (except for the salt).
For accurately making a spice mix like this, it is handy to have a precision scale that can measure by the gram. Richard does provide approximate amounts by the tablespoon if you prefer it that way. Here’s what I did…
24 grams coriander seeds
6 grams cumin seeds
6 grams fennel seeds
6 grams black peppercorns
6 grams mustard seeds
6 grams dried thyme
6 grams dried oregano
30 grams salt
…and mix. Store in an airtight container in a cool and dark place. According to Richard it has a shelf life of 2-3 months. I don’t think it will last that long. I found it easiest to apply the mixture by mixing it with olive oil and then rubbing it on the meat or fish before grilling it.